Flaubert in Egypt: A Sensibility on Tour (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 27 Jun 1996
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From the Back Cover
At once a classic of travel literature and a penetrating portrait of a sensibility on tour, Flaubert in Egypt wonderfully captures the young writer's impressions during his 1849 voyage to the "Orient". Using diaries, letters, travel notes, and the evidence of Flaubert's traveling companion Maxime Du Camp, Francis Steegmuller reconstructs this formative journey - through the bazaars and brothels of Cairo, down the length of the Nile, to the fabled Red Sea.
About the Author
Gustave Flaubert was born in Rouen in 1821, the son of a prominent physician. The success of Madame Bovary (1857) was ensured by government prosecution for "immorality"; Salammbô (1862) and The Sentimental Education (1869) received a cool public reception; not until the publication of Three Tales (1877) was his genius popularly acknowledged. His final bitterness and disillusion were vividly evidenced in the savagely satiric Bouvard and Pécuchet, left unfinished at his death in 1880.
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Top Customer Reviews
In this volume are selected pieces from Flaubert's travel notes, his letters of reassurance to his over-protective mother, and Flaubert's graphic and fantastically open letters to his friend Louis Bouilhet. Aged 28 when he set out on the trip, Flaubert spent his time taking in the "blatant tones that would make any painter fade away" and thinking about "literature: [his] sweet and never-ending obsession." Also included are some of Du Camp's 'journalistic' impressions of the near East, as well as some of his photographs he took (including the first ever photograph of the partly submerged Sphinx).
On his return to France, Flaubert spent the next five years working on what became Madame Bovary, and given the vast importance of that work (Flaubert was the favourite author of Proust, Joyce and Kafka), these travel notes present a fascinating insight into what at the time was his somewhat unfocused mind looking for direction as to what type of novel he should write. Salammbo, the novel that Flaubert published after Madame Bovary and set in the revolt of the mercenaries at Carthage in 133BC, was also framed through his experiences in the near-East.
So if you add up the historical importance to literature, the golden prose of Flaubert, the photographic importance of their journey, and the sheer delight of an un-Westernised Egypt, it is perhaps a book that should be sitting on more book cases than I suspect it currently does.
I found myself reading more slowly towards the end of the book - wanting to drag out the pleasure of engaging with Flaubert's daily adventures and his intense experiences and descriptions. Anybody with a deep interest in 'literary expression' rather than just 'writing', and anybody interested in Egypt and archeology will find the journeys and the narrative a fascination. Here is travel in the way of the old world, witnessing traditions and behaviour that will not be seen again. Technology and mechanisation, 'civilisation', a wealthier world, access and discovery have taken away the 'romance' (and much of the brutality) for ever.Read more ›
A very accessible book, created from a collection of letters and journals from his trip. Flaubert's descriptive skills add a further dimension to this historic travel book.
You can't put this one down.
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